(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Wintersville High School's hip new social studies instructor, Richard Miller, uses Good & Plenty candy as "contraband" in a "drug game" for his students in 1976-comedy ensues, as they say. Drug abuse among teens was no laughing matter back then and, of course, it's still relevant today, but playwright Jeffrey Hatcher uses that scenario as a backdrop for making comedy about this country's system of justice. Hatcher's Good 'N' Plenty is a comedy in which a civics lesson goes bad as instructor Miller tries to teach his students about the system and they end up experiencing the real thing.
Its an interesting point that Hatcher chose to set the play in 1976, the country's bi-centennial year," Director Peter Cocuzza said. The play was written in 2000. "And, it's also an interesting approach to understanding the constitution. The teacher, Miller, is intending to teach the constitution in a more provocative way, but it backfires," says Cocuzza, an SIUE professor of theater and dance and chair of that department. The play runs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 14-17, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, all at the theater in Katherine Dunham Hall.
Hatcher's play is full of comic characters as he draws an evening of laughs from a social problem. However, he also manages to make a point about the constitution as a living document. Cocuzza says the show's energy comes from the characters and, he points out, his actors are up to the task. "The students in the class and the teachers in the school or, to say the least, a bit wacky, but that's where the comedy comes in." For example, there's a Bulgarian exchange student who learns English by studying American pop song lyrics and the girl who collects paper products as research. And, there are the teachers-one is the poetry teacher who lisps. "It's all very funny," Cocuzza said. "It will be an entertaining show and, if you look close enough, it has a message, but not one that will hit you over the head."
Aside from the political and social messages, we are left with an entertaining cast representing students and faculty working together to educate, learn and to make a difference. ""Perhaps it can be all summed up by the last few lines of the play spoken by Miller who says, referring to the Constitution: 'We write it and re-write it. We try to get it perfect.'"
Costume Designer C. Otis Sweezey said his concept for the play was to bring back the clothes that made the 1970s unique. "As the play starts, I want the audience to immediately say to themselves: 'I wore clothes like that!' Actually, some of the clothing consists of items I actually wore in the '70s and later donated to the department." Sweezey said the '70s were an interesting time when plaid bell-bottoms and paisley dresses were all the rage. "With the Equal Rights Amendment in the forefront, women wore pants and men wore lacy shirts," Sweezey points out. "Leisure suits were made of a wonder fiber-polyester-which never needed ironing." Sweezey said the SIUE costume department contains a large collection of clothing from that era. "Almost all of the clothing the audience will see on stage is vintage."
Tickets for Good 'N' Plenty are $10; senior citizens, non-SIUE students and SIUE faculty and staff, $8; SIUE students, free admission with valid Cougar ID. Call the SIUE Fine Arts box office, (618) 650-2774, to reserve tickets or for more information. The Sign Languages Study Program at Southwestern Illinois College is providing two sign interpreters for the Saturday, Oct. 17, evening performance.